Re: Protest of Prop. 187 politics in ANTHRO-L

Aaron Fox (aaf@CCWF.CC.UTEXAS.EDU)
Wed, 23 Nov 1994 11:39:46 -0600

A response to Glenn Stone's reacton to Marcial Godoy:
>From Aaron Fox, U. Texas at Austin, U. Washington

Dr. Stone (excuse me if the title is wrong)

Many of us working against 187 have wondered about these same
issues, but we have largely concluded that it is not the case that
"symbolic" actions have no practical effects. Many boycotts and other
sorts of sanctions "hurt" the people they ultimately seek to help in some
direct and immediate economic sense, but that did not stop South African
gold miners or Colorado gays and lesbians or Arizona African-Americans from
supporting the boycotts of South African gold, Colorado tourism, or Arizona
sports (over MLK day). All three boycotts added significant pressure which
encouraged residents of the polities in question to conduct their struggle
as if the outside world might be watching. Targeted populations (in this
case immigrants) know full well the value of solidarity, which is why the
membership of the United Farm Workers always supported the grape boycott
which "cost them jobs" too.
Opposition is about much more than economics, too, in the sense
that many colleagues (and some friends of mine too) in the professions in
California are having to make agonizing decisions about whether, how, and
how publicly to resist and disobey this law which offends their
professional ethics and their moral consciences. It helps to have the
feeling that your decision to risk your job, your reputation, and your
safety (those bigots are nasty people) is backed up by colleagues and
friends all over the country who will make the case for you that you are
doing the right thing, and who will shelter you if you come under fire.
What is more, measures similar to Prop 187 are being considered or
launched in several other states, and Newt Gingrich (brrrrrrr) is talking
about doing something similar on a federal level. We who oppose this "law"
as fascist, inhumane, and a threat to our own professions must address this
particular case regardless of how the courts treat it. We are building a
(fast-growing) community of opponents in solidarity and that, my friends,
is how politics works. It's about numbers, moral high ground, real power,
a sense of shame and justice . . . all that. And it's also about *reason,*
which brings me to . . .
Last and certainly not least, it really is not fair to accuse the
signers of cynically "publicizing their own opposition" (or however you put
that). Would that some more German citizens had "publicized" their
opposition to a certain dictator in the 1930s! Would that certain
Americans had more vigorously publicized their opposition to McCarthy or
the Vietnam war in the EARLY phases of those disasters for this society. I
will just never understand the kind of thinking that sees intellectual life
as distinct from political life, and which therefore sees the conduct of
political organizing by intellectuals as cynical and self-serving and a
matter of fashion. Don't you think I would rather be writing my
dissertation than spending all day every day this week putting this
petition together? I resent the implication that this is a career move or
fashion statement of some sort. Many of the signers of this petition are
at the top of their profession and need neither career boosts nor
publicity. How much easier it would be to sit in the cafe and drink
Espresso and complain, or to continue having net discussions about trivia.
Rather, we are FRIGHTENED and MAD and we are geting ORGANIZED using the
tools provided by our intellectual culture and the institutions which
support it. If this seems like mere counterproductive "pique," then by all
means don't participate. But don't tell me that we don't have the right to
do so or that we are cowardly.
The real cowardice is quiescence. I don't know how many times it
needs to be said, in how many generations, and by how many people, but here
it goes again: science is not a JOB, it is a VOCATION, and it is an
OBLIGATION, and it is a COMMUNITY. Scientists (real scientists) don't work
FOR universities or taxpayers or corporations (though they may be employed
by any of these or none). They work FOR the largest sense of the community
and for their colleagues and for the ideals of reason, justice, and truth.
And social scientists in particular have an obligation to work on behalf of
powerless and oppressed people, and to correct the lies that turn our
society's public sphere into a playground ruled by bullies, megalomaniacs,
and idiots.

Suggested reading for those who wish to know where I'm coming from:

Habermas *Knowledge and Human Interest*
Adorno & Horkheimer *Dialectic of Enlightenment*
Stephen Jay Gould *The Mismeasure of Man*
Kant *Critique of Pure Reason*

P.S. Anybody who still wants to get involved in anti 187 measures at AAA,
AFS, SEM, LSA, and other professional societies, please be in touch with me
*off the list please* at:

BTW, for those interested, I have just found out about a new Anti-Prop 187
Network on the Internet. I post this as a forward, for info only. I have
not yet seen this list's content and cannot endorse its quality, but check
it out!
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Solidarity Across Borders,

Dept. of Anthropology Univ. of Texas at Austin Austin TX 78712
email: FAX (512) 471-6535